Inside social studies at Castleton High: Young citizens discuss their citizenship education

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Instructional Design, Development and Evaluation


Gerald Grant


high school students, social studies

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Instruction | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Teacher Education and Professional Development


This qualitative research study at Castleton High School was designed to answer the following questions: (1) What are the students' perspectives about the materials, information, activities and interactions that are part of their secondary social studies courses? (2) What types of sociopolitical attitudes have students formed? (3) How do students use the information provided in the classroom to form, modify, or reinforce their sociopolitical attitudes and behaviors? (4) What processes do students employ in changing or verifying their sociopolitical attitudes during their high school years? Data were collected through classroom observations, open-ended in-depth student interviews, classroom materials, and the school newspaper. A questionnaire was used to determine the extent to which the themes were applicable to a wider student population. Student drawn diagrams about the state political structure, provided qualitative and quantitative data about student knowledge. Castleton High School, located in a mid-size New York State city, serves a multi-ethnic, urban population with a wide socio-economic range. The findings address three areas relevant to high school social studies: (1) Student perceptions of social studies classes: (a) students reported that they are bored by courses they attend. (b) students do not understand the purposes for the courses, (c) students feel Surface provides description only. Full text is available to ProQuest subscribers. Ask your Librarian for assistance. in their discussions and explorations of current social and political problems. (2) Attitude formation and change process: (a) high school students are forming and changing their sociopolitical attitudes about many issues which are important globally, such as hunger, politics, the economy, abortion, the death penalty, crime, violence, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, ethnic pride, gender equity, and racism. (b) the process students describe matches that explained by two adolescent psychologist Ianni and Seltzer. (3) Citizenship Knowledge: (a) students have little knowledge about the state political structure despite completion of the participation in government course. (b) students are cynical about the political process and are generally not enthusiastic about participation in the process. (c) students do not cite citizenship education as a purpose for social studies. These data suggest the integration of content, materials, and methods which engage students and their teachers in critical reflection of their own developing attitudes, of historical events, and of participation in the political system. The report includes recommendations for changes in the curriculum, for the state and national tests, and for changes in teacher education. The obstacles to change that exists in the school is also discussed.


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